Why single women struggle to find a home in Mumbai

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Nov 24, 2016 06:51 PM IST

Bachelor Girls, a documentary by filmmaker Shikha Makan, highlights the challenges of unmarried women trying to find a home in Mumbai

Bachelor Girls, a documentary by filmmaker Shikha Makan, highlights the challenges of unmarried women trying to find a home in Mumbai

A still from Bachelor Girls(Photo: Shikha Makan)
A still from Bachelor Girls(Photo: Shikha Makan)

Nine years back, filmmaker Shikha Makan (now 36) moved from Delhi to Mumbai to pursue film direction. She thought of Mumbai as a city that epitomised freedom. But one of the first challenges she faced, as a single, independent woman, was finding a house for herself. Bachelors, be it men or women, routinely face harassment from housing societies, who are suspicious of their lifestyle and refuse to rent houses to them.

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Makan’s struggle didn’t end after she found a house to rent. “One night, the society chairman in the Andheri building I was staying in pulled me up for coming late and asked me to leave the house within 24 hours. That incident left me baffled,” recalls Makan. She thought of it as a stand-alone issue, but over the years, she met several women who faced such harassment on a daily basis.

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Makan, who has a degree in psychology and was a research student and an RJ in Delhi, spent the next few years assisting on various documentaries and directing ad films. After making her debut with an experimental short film — Linger (2012) — which travelled to film festivals, Makan decided to make Bachelor Girls, a documentary on the bias towards unmarried women in housing societies.

Made over almost three years, the documentary is being screened this weekend at Vikalp@Prithvi. The title refers to the term used by real estate brokers to label unmarried women. “The prism through which our society views a woman is tinted with judgments about character, clothes, lifestyle, and personal life,” says Makan.

Filmmaker Shikha Makan (Photo: Shikha Makan)
Filmmaker Shikha Makan (Photo: Shikha Makan)

The trailer, which released in September on Facebook, got 50,000 views in just two weeks. “Being single, for a woman, is a difficult identity to live with, even in cosmopolitan Indian metros, where discrimination hits you in various garbs,” adds Makan.

For Bachelor Girls, Makan spoke to women living in Mumbai and pursuing a range of occupations, be it film/media professionals who have irregular work timings, to women working in more acceptable professions such as banking and education.

“We have a complex mesh of traditional and western ideologies coexisting today. [But] deep inside our social psyche, we continue to hold on to archaic ideas about women,” says Makan.

Bachelor Girls will next be screened at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival (over this weekend) and the Madurai International Film Festival (in December). Makan is eventually planning to release the film online.

Bachelor Girls will be screened on November 25, 7pm onwards
At Vikalp@Prithvi, Prithvi House, Juhu
Entry is free; on a first-come-first-seated basis

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    Soma is an Assistant Editor for the weekend supplement HT 48 Hours. She writes on lifestyle, art and culture.

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